Thursday, February 25, 2010

How Not to be an Ignorant Backpacker

 What you're too Drunk to See

The video I've linked below really touched me because it gave me a giant slice of reality while chillin' on the beaches in

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Indie Guide to Thailand: Bangkok- Shopping

Best Vintage Threads and Local Markets in the BKK

Don't waste your money in shopping centres. Check out Thai markets where you can get pimpin' cool clothing, almost as cool and cheap as in Hong Kong. Remember, negotiate everything (as detailed in the Tips to not Getting Ripped Off). After living in Bangkok for the summer as the unpaid intern I still found ways to load my closet with new clothing. As always, knowing how to be cheap is knowing what cheap is. Below I tried to give you some examples of prices my amour and I have paid for standard pieces of clothing. Good Luck and happy shopping!

White patterned dress that shows up in a lot of pictures: less than 300 Baht ($10) at Chatachak.
Life changing West Coast Road Trip in Cali with French People: Priceless (well..pretty expensive actually)

Chatachak Weekend Market: At the end of the metro line and a bit far, but by far the best market for hip clothing. Be sure to bring lots of water and to have used the bathroom before entering into the hot sweaty mass of stalls. Trust me though, it is well worth it. You will find crazy

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Paris Series Part Two: Une Journée Parisienne

A Day in the Life 

Suit Up. After a wild night of partying in Paris til 7 am, day starts with hungover Saturday excursion to find food. Little do we know of the little surprises that will pop up throughout the day.

Jump on your boyfriend's Vespa and head to Chatelet for cheap eats.

The Paris Series- Part One: How I Hated Paris

Part One: Introduction and How I Hated Paris

If we're being honest here, I must say when I first arrived in Paris to do my student exchange in 2007 I never had seen a place so perfect and beautiful and Because perfection and beauty are two of the coldest bitches out there—cold enough to slow my pounding schoolboy heart to the sad and melancholic tremor of closed doors, used toilet paper and unknown love.

For when you first peruse those streets with the low rise white meubles, intricate designs in the doorway entrances, sparkling sun on the Seine as she sets behind the glowing pink Notre Dame there is an overwhelming feeling of having fallen into a glossy magazine. Everything is outlandishly beautiful and picture perfect and you are stunned by the sheer perfection surrounding you. Some may enjoy that postcard feeling, but for me I felt claustrophobic and trapped. I felt stuck in a 2-D world where you rely mainly to your visual senses to awe you. There is no depth and authenticity, there is no sound there is no taste and at one point you just want to dive deeper into the city and feel more than like you’re just jumping from one tourist site postcard to the next.

But like what the smell of old cheese is to a Frenchmen's  refrigerator, the feeling refused to leave. I was dreadfully miserable when I arrived in this city of love. And as I described above, I was absolutely astounded by the perfection and beauty that was everywhere- the buildings and architecture. How can I describe this accurately to you? You could tell that capitalism and efficiency were the last things on the creators’ minds (for better or worse). As an old architect acquaintance of mine once told me, ‘democracy has been cruel to architecture. The most beautiful cities were produced under autocracy. Paris (centre, the banlieu is whole other sad story) does not have a millimeter of the dreadful dreary box buildings where they pack humans and offices like they do sardines, and boring grid system and that was product of the boom of the 50’s and 60’s in the Free world.

The tiny winding streets, the white buildings, the hidden courtyards of buildings and balconies that all face each other, café’s on every corner with beautiful people drinking out of dollhouse size coffee cups, each bridge crossing the Seine is made with care and detail, the Eiffel Tower winking at you every hour through the darkness, lovers partout in the most passionate embraces that make old tourist bible-belters glare in disapproval; you see it all and your heart melts and cries at the same time and you wonder, ‘How can I be a part of this all, how can I make this mine?’ All I wanted to do was feel less like a tourist in this place I was to call home but it felt impossible as an outsider who spoke passable French with a Quebecois accent.

My misery followed me for the first while in Paris. I simply could not peel myself out of the postcard. I walked and I walked, I spoke to international student after international student and yet, Paris did not feel like it was mine. My misery was probably compounded by the fact that I had just left an old sweetheart behind in Canada, as well as the putain de merde frustrating administration involved with settling down. Peu import (no matter) now though. What's important is that the metaphorical old cheese smell did indeed leave the fridge.  And oh boy did it ever.  I had French lovers, fell in love with a French boy, I made some of my best friends there and I experienced the insanity and dynamism that Paris has to offer when you know where to look and what to do.

In the following series I will try to show you  the Paris of party loving, intellectual and romantic students. Also I will share the hidden gem authentic and affordable restaurants. As usual I will try to avoid writing the obvious Lonely Planet stuff and will give you cussing good music along the way.


80Kidz. I can't describe how much you will dig this song. You've probably heard their I Love London Remix. Addicting, sexy electro music by this Japanese artist. I know it is not French, but I discovered it over there and les gens there all knew about it.
Frankie (Vocal: The Shoes)- 80Kidz Remix.mp3

See Also..

  Indie Guide to Paris: Eating

A Night in Paris or How I Tried to Get an Interview with Kavinsky

A Day in the Life

France: Le Mans and an Adventure Outside of Paris

Get more photos and embarrassing and awesome details here.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Indie Guide to Thailand: 6 Tips to Avoid Getting Ripped Off in Bangkok

6 Tips to Avoid Getting Ripped Off in Bangkok

The only way to be thrifty in a new city is first knowing what the local standard of cheap is. When you are converting Dollars, Euros or Pounds into Thai Baht everything is relatively inexpensive but seriously, the local businesses are blatantly robbing you blind. To avoid being overcharged because
you do not look and speak like a Thai person I've given what I've learned after being ripped off completely. So my adventurous friends, stand on my shoulders and learn how to save your Baht in Bangkok.

1. From the Airport: Take the bus, it costs from 70-100 Baht (2-3$) and it stops at the major locations including Khao San Road (the backpacker area), Silom Road (where I lived) and other destinations. If you want to take a taxi from the airport, do not use the meter! It will cost much more and they may drive around the city aimlessly to rack up the meter price. Negotiate. Say 250 Baht and be willing to go up to 350-400 Baht. There are highway tolls so make sure you assert that your negotiated price includes the tolls as well, or else they'll ask you to pay them on top of the price you paid for the taxi which may lead you up to 700 Baht. This was written a while ago, please share with us if you know any better!

2. Taking Tuk Tuks: These are crazy fun and the epitome of your Bangkok experience but you have to be careful. There are many stories of people getting taken on a wild hay ride in a tuk tuk, stopping at some weird souvenir shops and then overcharging them for the ride. This has never happened to me and that is because you just have to pretend like you are familiar with Thailand and you’re not a virgin tourist. When you signal over the Tuk Tuk greet them in Thai. Sah-wah-dee kah if you’re a female and Sah-wah-dee-kap if you’re a guy is Hello. Very important, before you hop in negotiate the price and ask how long it will take. Pretend that you are in a rush. This way they won't take you all over the city to visit their buddy's tourist shops.  LEARN THAI NUMBERS. This is the most important thing. It is very simple and will save you so much money. Negotiate lower no matter what. I can’t tell you what an appropriate price is because it depends on your destination, but I’ve paid about 30 Baht for a short ride (5-10 mins) and 100 Baht for something that took much longer. If you’re going for a long ride, take a taxi and if you don’t know a good price to negotiate, use the meter. Always be on your toes and don’t let anyone try to over charge you. The key to negotiating is being ready to walk away. There are many other Tuk Tuks that will take you if they happen to call your toughguy bluff, but at least that way you’ll get a sense of what is the acceptable price to the destination you’re going to. If your stipend from your internship is not $5 a day then you probably can afford to pay more and save yourself the trouble and time.

3. Motorbike Taxis: You will see guys in green and orange vests transporting Thai women in suits and men. These are a form of taxis in Bangkok that has its pros and cons. First, it can be the same price as or a bit more expensive than Tuk T uks. The good thing about them though is that they will get you through the hellish BKK traffic faster than any other mode of transport, which comes in handy when you're about to miss your train to Laos.. The bad thing about them is that they can be dangerous. If you have an accident I've heard they have no insurance and will pretty much just leave you. This is indeed scary sounding, but I can't say that deterred me from using one every day in the summer to get to work in the business district. These guys know what they're doing and where they are going. Because mostly locals take them rather than tourists, they seem to be more honest with their pricing. For a 10 minute ride to work, I paid 30 Baht. As above, use Thai language when you can.

4. Shopping: Go to Thai markets (theee best shopping spots, here). For cute dresses, t-shirts, shorts, jewelerry, you should not be paying much more than 300 Baht for a single article. In fact, when I shop I would look for/negotiate my clothing anywhere from 100-150 Baht. 300 Baht is when I felt like splurging a bit. As I said above, negotiate with Thai numbers! It is important to know that this is not Hong Kong. If you bluff and say you will walk away from a price, they will NOT beg you back as in HK. They will let you go and you will feel silly for having been too stubborn. At the same time you have to assertive and really gauge the situation. If you are buying quality items like watches they will not lower the price that much. The best way to know the cheapest price is to shop around and try your bargaining skills. I gurantee you that if you walk away from one stand because they wouldn't accept your price, then you will find it somewhere else. If not then just come back with your tail between your legs and take the cheapest price they offered, such as what Paul had to do when buying his gold Casio watch.

5. Negotiate everything: I won’t go into it more than I have, but everything you do- shopping, taxis, Tuk Tuks you can get lower than they say. As I mentioned, use Thai numbers and say hello and thank you in Thai. That way they’ll know you’re no newb and they won’t mess with you. Food for the most part is fixed prices so forget el-cheapoing your way through that. Hope this helps and happy traveling!

6. Learn Basic Thai: As mentioned above, this is the most essential to proving you're not a newb to Thailand and you are aware of your surroundings. Everyone will be less inclined to rip you off for sure.

Hello: Sah-wah-dee-kap/kah
Thank You: Kap-kun-Kap/Kah
No: May-shai

Check out more useful phrases here.

See Also..
Indie Guide to Thailand: Bangkok Nightlife

Best Markets in Bangkok: Shopping Guide

Where Do Interns Live in Bangkok? 

Koh Phangan: The Party that Doesn't End (VIDEO)

 Now your turn! Share with your fellow poor travelers any tips you've picked up along the way. Or, if you feel like things have changed. Please let us know what your best deals are and save us poor student intern types money!

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Saturday, February 6, 2010

Indie Guide to Thailand: Bangkok- Nightlife

Indie Guide to Clubbing in Bangkok
Getting off Khao Sarn Road is a Must

Introduction: Why You Should Listen to me
I have been both resident and tourist in Bangkok and it turned out to be one of the craziest and most mental summers of my life. In Bangkok I partied every night, road in Tuk Tuks and motorbikes throughout this hot sweaty city, ate Red Curry and Tom Yum soup constantly, went shopping and found stylish and cheap clothing in the Thai markets (similar to shopping in HK!) and I did it all while living on probably around $5 a day. Obviously that is not realistic for alcoholics but it is definitely possible without alcohol consumption. I am one poor student who has debt yet nonetheless decided to take an UNPAID internship in Bangkok as well as volunteer on one of Thailand's crazy islands this past summer. Also, I have backpacked through the whole country from North to South, from ghetto trains filled with chickens to motorbikes through mountains. En gros, I just wanted to share how the heck to live the  el-cheapo life and still be a badass.

Clubs and Nightlife 
Everyone who back packs through Bangkok stays on Khao Sarn Road, eats on Khao Sarn Road and parties in this damn area. Don't get me wrong, it is a good time but it feels like you're still on

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

How to Love Life: Take a Road Trip with Best Friends

Lovin' Life on the West Coast Road Trip

From the Disney feel of Las Vegas to the utter solitude of the deserts of Nevada, from the fear of dying from bears in Yosemite and finally to absolute awe and splendor on Ocean Highway  California- this can possibly one of the best things you'll ever do in your young life.

Las Vegas- Desert- Yosemite- San Fran- Ocean Highway- LA 

Rolling Hills L.A. The best house with the view of the city all around you.

Absolute freedom was possible with our car. We would stop in the middle of the highway, jump on top of our the roof and watch the sunset fade behind the dry rocky patterns along the desert horizon. The world was endless and it was ours. In those two weeks together living in this rolling polluting box nothing could stop us.

If you have a couple weeks off, don't hesitate and rent that car (or steal from your parents) and hit the road. I don't quite understand it, but there is like some endemic of lethargy. Surprisingly young students are so often loathe to get out of their comfort zones and mobilize a trip. Save up some money, get over getting wasted in the bar every weekend and try something different!

 Camping along the Ocean Highway driving through Cali (below). After driving for hours and being rejected from every hotel in the mountains (it was Labour Day so all them Americans decided to flock to the hills and use up all the hotels!) we decide give up hope on civilization.  We wanted to drive all night, but the truth was that if we didn't find somewhere to stay it was possible that I or Paul would fall asleep while driving and lead us and our 3 bros to our watery grave on the ocean highway. So we whip out our sleeping bags and sleep on a cliff. Call it dangerous but it was one of the best and adventurous nights of my life (If you're a Canadian who goes camping, you'll understand).

If the world was my bedroom then imagine one wall was tall looming mountains, and the other was the vast expanse of the Pacific. Right beside my bed was not a nightstand but 700 m drop into jagged rocks and ocean . My ceiling was inundated with glow-in-the-dark like sticker stars except my Orion's Belt was the real one. And right beside me (or under me) was the person I loved most in the world.

NEW!! Video from the Trip
A little snippet of what we saw while on this trip. It is not at all representative of how crazy life was but it can give you an idea of the beauty and freedom you can feel while on the road.

I can bloody start crying watching this. Imagine the best times you can have with your friends. It's nothing insane..just small things that make life great.

Songs for Dreamers..and Crazy New Stuff I found

Israeli American funky folk band from Cali. Saw them live with Edward Sharp and I fell in love. This is one of those roadtrip songs.
Fool's Gold- Surprise Hotel.mp3

 Reminds me of Of Montreal but with a different background beat and more electronica
Rafter- Paper.mp3

This is not new or a discovery of mine, nonetheless if you don't know The Spinto Band or this song you are missing out on one catchy indie pop band from Delware.
The Spinto Band- Oh Mandy.mp3

See Also...
How to Hook Up With the World

How to Fly Without Money